Does it Matter That We Pray for Healing?
It is natural and appropriates that we should want a person healed of whatever malady that afflicts them, and so we pray that they be cured. But what about the situation in which the medical prognosis is that of an incurable disease or affliction? Should we still pray for healing? Yes, I believe we should.
What is Healing Prayer?
I need to establish what I mean by “Healing”. When most of us hear the word “healing” in the context of prayer, or otherwise, we immediately think of remedying a physical affliction or malady of some kind. This is natural enough I suppose, but I think this is an incomplete way of thinking about healing. First, it is not just our bodies that need healing. There is ample scriptural, scientific and experiential evidence to suggest that heart, mind, body and spirit are all involved in our dis-eases and that healing involves all these elements. In addition to physical ailments, we are also concerned with the healing of relationships, memories, anxieties, fears–anything that is not whole. Often spiritual and emotional healing is needed before physical healing can take place. Jesus often dealt with the spiritual and non-physical side of those he healed before he dealt with the physical problems. For example in Luke 5 he says “your sins are forgiven” before he says, “Pick up your mat and walk”.
Healing prayer can perhaps best summarized in the phrase: “Christian healing is Jesus Christ meeting a person at his/her point of greatest need.” Jesus does the healing, not us. Those praying for healing are channels of God’s healing power and love. The “Gift of Healing” is given to those for whom we pray, not to those who do the praying. Christian healing involves the well-being of the whole person: body; mind; and spirit. In praying for healing we are praying for wholeness.
When we use the words: “healing”; “healing prayer”; or being “healed”, I think that many of us confuse being “healed” with being “cured”. We can think of a cure as the experience of a person who is lame throwing away their crutches and walking, whereas to be healed is the experience of perhaps needing the crutches but not giving a hoot! In seeking a cure where something is completely eradicated many of us are showing a desire to be perfect, with no sickness or imperfection. We want to be in “perfect” health. We want to be perfect. I don’t think perfection is possible for humans. We are all imperfect in heart, mind, body or spirit in some way. In seeking perfection we are seeking the impossible. We are all uniquely imperfect.
Healing is a Process
Healing is not a single event it is a process. Physical healing involves a process of diagnosis, preparation, surgery, recovery and aftercare. Similarly, spiritual healing is a process of recognition confession, absolution, thanksgiving and change.
I think it is important for us to realize that God’s healing power comes to us in many ways and at various rates. Occasionally, in response to prayer, God intervenes–acts quickly–and what we often refer to as “Miracles” happen. However, miracles do not happen often. More often, healing takes an extended period of time, as people work in cooperation with God. This includes medical staff, spiritual support, and the natural physical and mental processes of the person involved. Sometimes God’s healing is not at all evident to us, and we are given the strength to endure what we don’t understand. We should not try to judge what God should or should not do.
Public Prayers for Healing
Prayers for healing need not be restricted to personal prayer or restricted to one-liners during Prayers for the People in a worship service. An absence of the visible and regular public practice of healing prayer in our churches, until the very recent past, is unfortunate. Public healing prayer and healing services are legitimate Christian activities, and have been part of the church since the time of Jesus. Somehow in the 18th century it got shuffled aside.
Let God Work
In Mark 6 we read of Jesus sending out the 12 and “they drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” We read in the book of James: “If you are having trouble, you should pray. And if you are feeling good, you should sing praises. If you are sick, ask the church leaders to come and pray for you. Ask them to put olive oil on you in the name of the Lord. If you have faith when you pray for sick people, they will get well. The Lord will heal them and if they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15)